Retrospective:
West Valley Water District
A Chronology of Corruption, Cronyism, Malfeasance and Mismanagement

S.E. Willams
In late January when news broke that the West Valley Water District (WVWD) Board of Directors (BOD) agreed to pay $450,000 in severance to then General Manager Clarence Mansell, it was regarded by most as one more twist in the ongoing saga that plagued the agency in recent years.

It was during this era of spiraling dysfunction, mind numbing allegations, pointed accusations, counter complaints, alleged threats of violence, malfeasance, a revolving door of—at times—unqualified administrators, lawsuits and misuse of ratepayer funds that Clarence Mansell was allegedly recruited by none other than former BOD president, Clifford Young in 2018.

Beginning in 2016, the WVWD devolved into what critics saw as a breeding ground of dysfunction. In succeeding years, it was apparent, behind nearly every scandal, disruption, or complaint—stood Clifford Young. What caused the agency’s troubled waters to begin churning wildly at that time is unknown beyond the arrival of C. Young’s protégé, Greg Young, who was elected to the board in November 2015.

Whether having G. Young by his side bolstered C. Young’s willingness to unleash his inner bully remains a mystery. What is clear however, is once his inner bully was unleashed, it set in motion a period of tumult that continued through subsequent years.

Along the way, careers were disrupted, reputations besmirched, rate payers robbed and administrators came and went. Yet, the man who sparked it all, Director Clifford Young, was re-elected in November 2018.

Caught amid this storm was former General Manager Clarence Mansell who was purportedly  recruited to the agency in June 2018 by none other than C. Young, who supposedly bypassed the agency’s normal hiring process to bring him aboard.

Unfortunately for Mansell, little did he know at the time, within a few short months C. Young would be unceremoniously ousted from his position as BOD president, along with vice president G. Young. Nor could Mansell have foreseen the very man who supported his entry to the agency would play a role in his scapegoating, including Mansell as a defendant in a qui tam lawsuit C. Young initiated, and would allegedly support—if not led the effort—to push Mansell out.

According to WVWD, Mansell was professionally qualified for both positions he held at the agency—assistant general manager and general manager. He brought with him more than 40 years’ experience in the industry, was considered by the agency as an accomplished water expert, and had experience collaborating with a variety of policy leaders and agencies throughout California.

When the board elevated Mansell from assistant general manager to general manager six months later in January 2019, Board President Dr. Michael Taylor stated, “Clarence brings with him the experience that will allow West Valley Water District to become an innovative leader while increasing the service levels our customers deserve.”

Board Vice President Kyle Crowther declared, “Clarence is incredibly creative and smart, and he is eager to explore new ideas to improve our infrastructure.”

When the vote was taken however, Mansell no longer enjoyed the support of C. Young nor his protégé, G. Young—who had also voted yes to his hiring. Both men voted no.

In recent years, the IE Voice and the Black Voice News followed this story closely. The San Bernardino Sun and other local outlets also filed reports. The WVWD took issue with the San Bernardino Sun over the accuracy of its reporting in several articles and to “Set the Record Straight,” posted detailed rebuttals on its website.

To review relevant key moments in the recent history of this water agency as reported by the IE Voice and Black Voice News, see below WVWD Retrospective: A Chronology of Corruption, Cronyism, Malfeasance and Mismanagement.
S. E. Williams is executive editor of the IE Voice and Black Voice News.

WVWD Retrospective: A Chronology of Corruption, Cronyism, Malfeasance and Mismanagement

Clifford O. Young and Linda Gonzalez join the West Valley Water District Board of Directors replacing incumbents Don Olinger and Jackie Cox
November 2013

Don Olinger is re-elected to the board. Greg Young is elected to first term and incumbent Alan Dyer retains his seat.
November 2015

C. Young directs board secretary, Shanae Smith, to cancel travel arrangements to Washington, D.C. for Vice President Linda Gonzalez; tells her to deny any assistance to Gonzalez. Smith alleges he called her a “subservient Black woman” and demanded she do what he said when she expressed reluctance. https://theievoice.com/bullying-work-what-is-going-on-at-west-valley-water-district/
September 2016

C. Young berates Smith and Gonzalez before the External Affairs committee, later advises Smith if she is “not with him” he would not guarantee he could protect her. Smith files discrimination complaint against C. Young with U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission for harassment, retaliation and gender discrimination. https://theievoice.com/when-the-whistle-blows-part-1/
October 2016

WVWD makes Smith a settlement offer.
December 2016

General Manager Matthew Litchfield advises Smith her claims against C. Young were unsubstantiated and the case was considered close. Litchfield receives a profanity laced phone call from C. Young, upset because he did not reschedule the March 17, 2017 board meeting as directed, but most board members did not want the change. C. Young told him, “[Y]ou’ve gotten yourself in between all this now . . . now you are going to get cut!” https://theievoice.com/wvwd-a-never-ending-story-of-corruption-and-malfeasance/
March 2017

• Litchfield places an evaluation of the law firm, Tafoya & Garcia, on the April 6 board agenda. Tafoya tells Litchfield he has no authority to do so. Litchfield then receives an email from C. Young warning if he proceeded with the evaluation, it would be an act of insubordination. Board majority kept the item on the agenda. C. Young advises Litchfield “[He] would be lashing out” at him over the process of setting the agenda.

• In a separate incident C. Young threatens to retaliate against Litchfield for pursuing reimbursement on behalf of WVWD for C. Young’s personal printer supplies paid for with ratepayer funds.
April 2017

Pre-Election
• Cliff Young files Fair Political Practices Commission complaint against Linda Gonzalez.  

• Chief financial officer, Suzanne Cook, files suit against C. Young and WVWD alleging C. Young  engaged in improper hiring and financial practices

• Litchfield files claim threatening to sue WVWD alleging C. Young was directing actions without obtaining Board consensus.

Post-Election 
• C. Young is re-elected to WVWD; Michael Taylor is elected to first term replacing Linda Gonzalez.

• Dyer resigns under pressure after an investigation spearheaded by C. Young over Dyer’s place of residence. Robert Bourland who was temporarily appointed to replace him was ultimately defeated by Kyle Crowther in a special election.

• C. Young bullies Litchfield into rehiring his political supporter and neighbor Robert Christman as chief financial officer. Christman was previously released from probationary employment with WVWD for poor performance. Litchfield refuses. https://theievoice.com/wvwd-a-never-ending-story-of-corruption-and-malfeasance/

• C. Young threatens to retaliate against Litchfield for pursuing reimbursement of personal printer supplies.

• Litchfield sends a letter to the WVWD’s General Counsel Michael Davis expressing  opposition to what he describes as “the unlawful conduct of the district and its employees.”

• Four district executives send Litchfield a memo titled “Director Clifford Young Sr. Activities.” The memo outlines examples of C. Dr. Young’s abuse of power and misappropriation of public funds for his own personal benefit. Litchfield forwards memo to General Counsel Davis.

• Davis forwards the information to the board of directors and advises them Litchfield was entitled to WhistleBlower Protection under Article 9 of the District’s Code of Ethics/Board Conduct policies and all other applicable laws. https://theievoice.com/the-top-10-reasons-why-the-west-valley-water-district-looks-a-lot-like-the-city-of-bell/

• The board hires an attorney and tries to force Litchfield to be interviewed without his own lawyer present in violation of the California Rules of Professional Conduct. https://theievoice.com/wvwd-a-never-ending-story-of-corruption-and-malfeasance/ 
November 2017

• C. Young is selected board president.

• Board approves the hiring of Robert Tafoya (Tafoya & Garcia) as the district’s general legal counsel. At the time, Tafoya also represented the City of Baldwin Park as its city attorney. Olinger was the only board member to vote against his hiring.

• In response to the growing chaos among board members and between C. Young and top administrators concerned ratepayers formed the WVWD Ratepayers Association (RPA) under the leadership of Don Griggs to serve as a bulwark against the dysfunction and growing concerns over misuse of ratepayer funds. https://blackvoicenews.com/2020/07/19/remembering-don-griggs-my-good-friend-since-1965/

• C. Young places the agency’s assistant general manager, Greg Gage, human resources manager, Karen Logue, and board’s secretary, Shanae Smith, on suspension or administrative leave—Olinger was the only Board member to vote against these actions. All these individuals purportedly supported Clifford Young’s opponent, Gonzalez, in the election.

• Logue and Smith accuse C. Young of not following procedures and skirting guidelines for hiring district personnel. Because tensions are high at the meeting police are present to maintain control.

• C. Young hosts an election victory celebration for himself, Michael Taylor and Kyle Crowther and describes it as a Christmas party and charging it to WVWD. RPA believes Young had violated FPPC regulations when he requested and was reimbursed for the cost of the event which totaled $1,897.43. https://theievoice.com/i-refuse-to-be-bullied/
December 2017

WVWD retains The Kaufman Law Firm, APC to investigate allegations against C. Young that he harassed, bullied, and abused former General Manager Matthew Litchfield. Litchfield further alleges C. Young gave him a list of people to hire and terminate under threat of retaliation.
January 2018

The board dismisses claims of alleged harassment and wrongful termination by Litchfield, Smith, Logue and Ricci. Logue and Litchfield followed with lawsuits against the district claiming unjustifiable terminations. https://theievoice.com/the-wheels-of-justice-are-turning-at-west-valley-water-district/
March 2018

The board hires Clarence Mansell as interim general manager. Mansell is hired by a vote of three to zero in a closed session of the board. C. Young, G. Young and Taylor all approved of his hiring by voting yes. Olinger and Crowther are in absentia. He was recruited by C. Young outside the normal hiring process.
June 2018

The WVWD engages the law firm Milon Pluas LLP (Pluas) to investigate allegations involving Young and the District in response to RPA’s FPPC complaint related to the December 2017 election victory party (aka Christmas celebration).
September 2018

• The Public Integrity Unit (PIU) of the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office provides a written assessment regarding two complaints against C. Young. According to the PIU “[Young], without admitting any liability, acknowledged the payments in question were inappropriate.” https://theievoice.com/criminal-intent-wvwd-director-clifford-young-may-finally-be-held-to-account/

• C. Young and G. Young ousted as president and vice president of the WVWD Board of Directors after complaints by RPA were forwarded to the Fair Political Practices Commission regarding misuse of ratepayer funds. Michael Taylor was elected president and Kyle Crowther vice president. https://theievoice.com/overthrown/?fbclid=IwAR1GhTaC33awhY24EQa7OckGTmeDKK57PfCzNytyf3PqvOGnbC_AHsck55U 

• WVWD hired The Kaufman Law Firm again, this time to investigate various complaints made by Clarence Mansell and Deborah Martinez against C. Young. The investigation concludes C. Young subjected Mansell and Martinez to harassment, intimidation, anda hostility.
October 2018

The board disagrees over making a formal request of the State Auditor Controller to complete a full  financial audit of the district’s fiscal dealings, including legal counsel  contracts and contractors, for the preceding two years. The board eventually agrees to have the audit completed by WVWD’s contract auditor.
December 2018

• Milon Pluas LLP begins investigation into allegations involving Young and the District in response to the RPA’s FPPC complaint.

• Clifford Young, Chief Financial Officer Naisha Davis, and Assistant Board Secretary Patricia Romero as plaintiffs file “under seal” a qui tam lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court, alleging West Valley Water contracted counsels, District General Counsel Robert Tafoya and his law firm, Tafoya & Garcia in addition to West Valley Water District’s counsels, consultants, board members and general manager.

• California’s Attorney General also receives a qui tam complaint. Missing from the packet of material evidence submitted to the Attorney General is all the correspondence from the Fair Political Practices Commission, including the Fair Political Practices Commission’s final notice concluding it would not be proceeding with any action.
February 2019

At the request of the WVWD, the law firm Milon Pluas LLP (Pluas) investigates allegations against C. Young brought by Griggs on behalf of the RPA. The complaint was based on their detailed report which laid out a compelling case (including documents) in support of their claim C. Young misused ratepayer funds to pay for a political event on Dec. 7, 2017. https://theievoice.com/tangled-web-of-alleged-corruption/
March 2019

Milon Pluas LLP completes investigation and concludes the allegations made against C. Young and the West Valley Water District are substantiated noting the district’s own documents were enough to establish conclusively the reimbursement to C. Young (for the December 2017 event) was requested, made and “not in dispute.” https://theievoice.com/criminal-intent-wvwd-director-clifford-young-may-finally-be-held-to-account/
April 2019

Board approves employment agreement with Hesperia City Councilmember Jeremiah Brosowske to fill the position to serve as assistant general manager earning a base salary of $189,592 and $62,500 in benefits. Brosowske has no education in water systems; received his higher education from Charter Oaks State College—a public online college which offers a limited number of bachelor’s degrees—none related to water systems.  https://theievoice.com/crisis-corruption-and-cronyism/
May 2019

WVWD hires Logan Olds as assistant general manager. Olds was former general manager of  Victor Valley Wastewater Reclamation Authority, an agency investigated by the Federal Office of the Inspector General for alleged misuse of funds associated with a $33 million FEMA grant. https://theievoice.com/complacent-compliant-or-complicit-ratepayers-call-for-more-than-mea-culpas-from-directors/
June 2019

• WVWD files motion to dismiss the qui tam alleging it was an attempt to invalidate the internal district investigations of complaints against C. Young by Litchfield, Gonzalez, Ricci, Logue, Smith and ultimately Mansell. The agency suggests the claim filed under the California False Claims Act, did not meet the legal requirements of such an action and was a politically motivated hit piece lodging spurious allegations of corruption against the members of the board who did not align with C. Young’s actions. https://theievoice.com/complacent-compliant-or-complicit-ratepayers-call-for-more-than-mea-culpas-from-directors/

• Dr. Michael Taylor announces an impending audit of the agency by the California State Controller’s office. https://blackvoicenews.com/2019/07/19/state-audit-may-unravel-and-reveal-truth-behind-wvwds-tangled-web-of-corruption/

• West Valley Water District Public Affairs Manager Naseem Farooqi files a temporary restraining order in San Bernardino Superior Court alleging director Greg Young threatens to kill him. https://theievoice.com/political-battle-for-control-of-west-valley-water-district-erupts-as-election-rapidly-approaches/
July 2019

• Logan Olds abruptly departs from WVWD purportedly claims he did not like being micromanaged by Mansell.  

• Black Voice News Publisher Emeritus Hardy Brown Sr. endorses Don Olinger https://theievoice.com/don-olinger-for-west-valley-water-district-board-of-directors-district-4/

• WVWD announces the appointment of Shamindra (Rickey) Manbahal as Chief Financial Officer and many in the community question his qualifications and background. https://theievoice.com/wvwds-new-chief-financial-officer-explains-questionable-past-part-1/  and https://theievoice.com/wvwds-new-chief-financial-officer-explains-questionable-past-part-2/
August 2019

RPA President Don Griggs presents ratepayer concerns to the FPPC documenting how WVWD Board of Directors and its President Clifford Young used ratepayers’ money for personal political purposes in relation to an event that occurred in December 2017. https://blackvoicenews.com/2020/07/19/remembering-don-griggs-my-good-friend-since-1965/
September 2019

Battle for control of WVWD heats up as Nov. 5, 2019 approaches.  G. Young alleges a proposed censure against himself and C. Young. Three board members face re-election including Kyle Crowther-District 1 facing two opponents, business owner Linda Gonzalez and Betty J. Gosney; Don Olinger-District 4 https://theievoice.com/209208-2/  faces labor relations representative Channing Hawkins https://theievoice.com/shanae-smith-endorses-director-don-olinger-for-west-valley-district-water-board/; and Greg Young-District 5 faces Jackie S. Cox and educational assistant Angel Ramirez. https://theievoice.com/vote-linda-gonzalez-for-west-valley-water-district-board/  
October 2019

• Channing Hawkins sworn in as new board member, elected to serve as board president and immediately begins efforts to improve administration and conduct unbiased investigations and assessments of the WVWD operations. https://theievoice.com/a-rats-nest-aka-the-west-valley-water-district/

• 16 of  the district’s 18 department managers complain of low morale requests Mansell be removed. According to the letter, “General Manager Mansell has alienated employees by removing responsibilities from specific individuals to those who will do his bidding.” https://theievoice.com/a-rats-nest-aka-the-west-valley-water-district/
December 2019

Complainants file an amended qui tam within the required time frame.
February 2020

Browski departs WVWD with severance pay.
April 2020

Litchfield settles years-long lawsuit with WVWD.
May 2020

• California State Controllers (CSC) issue a blistering report of WVWD’s internal control systems including failure in how it conducts its operations, prepares financial reports, safeguards agency assets, and ensures proper use of public funds. https://blackvoicenews.com/2020/07/04/state-delivers-blistering-assessment-of-west-valley/  

• California State Controller’s evaluation reviewed conditions at the agency during the period July 1, 2016, through June 30, 2018. C. Young led the WVWD Board of Directors during much, if not all, the period under audit. https://blackvoicenews.com/2020/07/12/in-response-to-the-state-audit-west-valley-water-district-said/
June 2020

Olds returns to WVWD as assistant general manager and Clarence Mansell requests and takes a personal leave of absence. https://theievoice.com/wvwd-reorganizes-for-success/
October 2020

Clarence Mansell considers a $450,000 severance package approved by the WVWD.
January 2021

Mansell signs settlement agreement of $450,000 to be released from the district. The vote was 4-1 with Channing Hawkins, Kyle Crowther, Greg Young, Michael Taylor voting “yes”  and Clifford Young voting “no”.
February 2021

S.E. Williams

Stephanie E. Williams is an award winning investigative reporter, editor and activist who has contributed to several Inland Empire publications. Williams spent more than thirty years as a middle-manager...